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High Court blocks iPhone data breach class action against Google

The High Court has blocked a mass legal action against Google over claims that it collected sensitive personal data from more than four million iPhone users.

Mr Justice Warby, sitting in London, announced his decision on Monday.

The litigation was brought by campaign group Google You Owe Us, led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd.

The tech giant faced claims that it bypassed privacy settings on Apple iPhone handsets between August 2011 and February 2012 and used data to divide people into categories for advertisers.

The campaign group hoped to win at least £1 billion in compensation for an estimated 4.4 million users of the device in the UK.

At the first hearing of the case in London in May, lawyers for Mr Lloyd told the court that information collected by Google included racial or ethnic origin, physical and mental health, political affiliations or opinions, sexuality and sexual interests and social class.

They said information about an individual’s financial situation, shopping habits and their geographical location were also obtained.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing Mr Lloyd, said information was then “aggregated” and users were put into groups such as “football lovers” or “current affairs enthusiasts”.

These were then offered to subscribing advertisers to choose from when deciding who to direct their marketing to.

Mr Tomlinson said the data was gathered through “clandestine tracking and collation” of information relating to internet usage on iPhone users’ Safari browser – known as the “Safari Workaround”.

He told Mr Justice Warby the activity was exposed by a PhD researcher in 2012 and Google has already paid 39.5 million US dollars to settle claims in the United States.

Google argued that the type of “representative action” being brought against it by Mr Lloyd is unsuitable and should not go ahead.

Lawyers for the California-based company said there is no suggestion that the Safari Workaround resulted in any information being disclosed to third parties.

They also said it is not possible to identify those who may have been affected and the claim has no prospect of success.

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